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Regional areas resilient but under pressure

The South Australian Council of Social Service (SACOSS) met yesterday with service providers from across the Eyre Peninsula in the areas of health, aged care, disability services, children's services, local government and more, to share information, highlights and challenges.

Issues around the centralisation of services, digital inclusion, homelessness, joblessness and poverty were key themes raised at yesterday's Port Lincoln consultation. The region has been hit by a number of challenges, including a decline in the fishing sector, sustained drought, and COVID-19.

"Rural and regional SA has faced a very challenging time with COVID, but communities have shown great strength and resilience, and community services have actively collaborated, shown unity, and really stepped up to assist people." said SACOSS CEO Ross Womersley.

"There continues to be the challenge, though, of providing services across the region. Centralisation of services is an issue, particularly with families moving to the smaller communities where housing is cheaper, but which increasingly lack local services."

"Digital inclusion is also a significant issue. COVID demanded a fast switch to alternative ways to get services to people, but many simply remained disconnected. There are still too many black spots, and many people and communities still struggle with access and digital skills, impacting on their ability to get the information and support they need. People who are generally reliant on free wifi provided by local businesses that closed due to COVID had particular difficulty."

"At the very same time, there is also real concern that increasing the delivery of services via digital platforms will hollow out local face-to-face services, resulting in less health and community service professionals living locally in the community across the Eyre Peninsula. This loss has broader repercussions, as these people often play other supportive roles, and their presence contributes to the longer-term economic sustainability of many communities."

"As in many other regions of SA, the increasing lack of housing affordability is creating extreme pressure for people with low incomes, and driving an increase in homelessness. In parts of the Eyre Peninsula in particular, a booming local tourism industry is also making it very difficult  to access affordable emergency accommodation."

"The Coronavirus Supplement was a good stimulus for businesses in the community, and temporarily led to fewer community members needing to seek emergency financial relief. And despite the majority of people doing okay, poverty and joblessness is a real issue. With downturns in the fishing industry and extended drought, there are few entry-level job opportunities in many places, and there is low morale. And we have yet to see the impact of the upcoming end of JobKeeper and the reduction in JobSeeker when the Coronavirus Supplements ends."

"While it is clear that there are significant challenges ahead, we know that services will be working hard to look after people. We will also be strongly advocating that the state and federal governments really step up to support rural and regional communities. There is so much that is fantastic in rural and regional SA, but if we want to keep those real strengths, we need to make sure that planning and initiatives take into account local needs, drive real community sustainability, and recognise the character of the different areas across this great state, so that they can shine."

2 March 2021

Media enquiries:
Eva O'Driscoll, Communications Coordinator:
8305 4227 / eva@sacoss.org.au
Ross Womersley, SACOSS CEO

Published Date: 
Tuesday, 2 March 2021